AcroMeta To Expand Coworking Laboratory Business
SINGAPORE – Specialist engineering company AcroMeta is eyeing further expansion in the coworking laboratory segment thanks to a post-pandemic resurgence in demand for such flexible workspaces, reported The Business Times on Monday morning (29 May, SGT).
In Singapore, AcroMeta plans to open a 2nd coworking laboratory space that is larger than its existing workspace, the Life Science Incubator (LSI), by the first quarter of 2024.
The company is also exploring coworking lab opportunities in markets like Australia, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and China. In fact, AcroMeta has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with a German commercial real estate management group for a coworking lab project in Brisbane, Australia.
Notably, AcroMeta entered the coworking laboratory segment in 2021 with the launch of the 600 sq m LSI at the German Centre. Notably, the company holds a 70 percent stake in the laboratory.
“Back in 2020, we realised that a lot of people were talking about doing research work but they lacked the space… and sometimes capital to establish their own lab,” disclosed AcroMeta’s Executive Chairman Levin Lee.
He explained that opening a 150 sq m lab costs about S$750,000. This excludes monthly rent as well as the price and “hassle” of upkeep. That means high cost and risk for companies, especially start-ups and scale-ups that are at the early phase of the R&D process.
Lee shared that the idea is to “let researchers focus on science and innovating” instead of wasting time and money on constructing and maintaining infrastructure. As such, LSI houses a team of laboratory assistants who oversee the facility and provide round-the-clock support to researcher-tenants.
Located at Jurong East, LSI contains 37 lab benches and six private suites for rent for at least 3 months. Members get access to hi-tech equipment, like centrifuges and microplate readers, on top of a 350 sq m coworking office space and specialised rooms for autoclaving or tissue culture work.
Since its launch, LSI has witnessed about 30 companies enter its doors. It has been able to maintain an occupancy level of 60 to 80 percent. Presently, it has 21 members ranging from start-ups to multinational corporations (MNCs), including tech giant HP and IT consulting company Accenture.
Most of them rent a space for 9 to 12 months, but there are a few shorter-term tenants, added Lee.
One of its newer members is Panomix Biomedical Tech, a Chinese company that researches the chemical processes of small molecules known as metabolites. The firm started leasing a private suite and two benches at LSI in November 2022.
“We tried renting a space at JTC to build our own lab, but… it would take four to six months to get the necessary permits and renovate the place before we can start work,” said Panomix scientist Yin Fenfang.
Instead, they opted for LSI’s coworking lab. While rent there is costly at over S$10,000 per month, Yin said the cost is worth it if one takes into account convenience and the time saved.
Biotech start-up Quvo Labs, which has been leasing a bench at LSI since early-2022, agrees with Yin. Its Chief scientific officer Burak Ozturk calculated that they have saved over S$100,000 leasing a bench at LSI instead of establishing their own lab.